SLIDER

The Junior Suite At M By Montcalm, Shoreditch

Monday, 20 February 2017

It seemed like our anniversary passed us by last year; we were on a plane back from Hong Kong for most of it and spent the rest of the week too exhausted to do anything but Andrew being Andrew, he decided to book us a little romantic staycation a couple of weeks later. 
The M by Montcalm hotel is that strange building that has popped up on City Road, just down the road from Old Street Station. We were in London early so we though we'd chance it and see if we could check in and luckily for us, the room was ready so we were able to go straight away. We had booked the Feel Better deal in the Junior suite and it came to around £300 (in October 2016.) Alone with the room, we were given a couple of vouchers to spend in the club lounge on the 16th floor. We didn't get time to spend them but I love all the surprise perks you get when you book a suite, drinks were around £8 so that actually would have got you quite a bit.

Whilst this hotel is the sister hotel to The Montcalm Marble Arch which we stayed at earlier last year but it's completely different. Being less than a year old and surrounded by the trendy, start-up culture in Shoreditch, the hotel is an edgy, modern space and full of young, creative people and that is what we are all about at the moment. The room had white sheets, simple furniture, straight lines and lots of light but Andrew actually picked this hotel because of how it integrated technology into the rooms. Everything is controlled by tablets from the curtains to the heating. He loves all that kind of stuff but it's not something that I'm a huge fan of  because it can be a little bit of a pain when you need to go to the toilet in the middle of the night.

 Apart from that, the room was a lovely size with lots of living space in the middle. The bed was majorly comfortable (and sprinkled with rose petals for our anniversary) and there was lots of light coming in from the windows. 


We spent some time downstairs in the gym before coming back up to the room to get ready for dinner! I love to take ages getting ready when we have a nice hotel bathroom and I took a particularly long time here. The bathroom was stocked up with Hermés goodies and staying in a suite meant that we had complimentary use of The Bath Butler. Okay it's not as weird as it sounds, basically its a small list of bath time treats, I went for one called Bubble Bliss and right on time (4.30 to be precise) a woman turned up with a bottle of champagne and a plate of chocolate and strawberries before disappearing into our bathroom to set up. Twenty minutes later she said good bye and left us to enjoy the bath.
The hotel is in a really great location, less than five minutes walk from Old Street station so after we had finished our champagne, we got ready for dinner and walked to The Red Dog Saloon in Hoxton Sqaure. We have a habit of accidentally picking almost identical outfits and it happened again here..
Overall we had a pretty lovely stay and yes, we would visit again. There are just two small things that I want to point out to you guys as they will be something that we actively avoid next time. We had booked the Feel Better deal which included an overnight stay, breakfast and a 20 minute head or foot massage each and whilst we loved the room, the other two parts of this deal were not up to scratch. When we came to book in our treatments (two weeks prior to our stay) they didn't have any slots left which is really bad practice if I’m honest, it should have been mentioned at the time of booking! Initially they were very unhelpful about this but after putting up a bit of a fuss, we were refunded £30 off of the price. As for breakfast, there wasn't necessarily anything wrong with it, it was just a bit of a cattle market. I was expecting an a la carte menu but what I got was a small buffet that never got refilled.

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Being a girl on a lads holiday

Monday, 13 February 2017

I don’t really remember much of my social life growing up; probably because it was so terrible. I joined a secondary school where everyone seemed to already know each other and I guess I just didn't fit. I left that place with two friends; Georgia (who I mention on here quite a bit) & Paul. It wasn’t all bad, one day, the strange guy who I sat next to in form (soz Paul, I was going to say your not strange anymore but then again, I did catch you eating a whole cucumber like it was a bar of chocolate last week) had a house party and invited the whole year; and that’s where I met Andrew and his friends who I've kinda stuck with ever since.

We’ve all been on holiday together before, although last time there were a few other girls who came with. The boys go on a lad’s trip most years but this time it was for Andrews’s birthday and he wanted me to come with too. So that's how I ended up being the only girl on a lad’s holiday, but let's be honest I am the only girl out with them most of the time so I'm pretty used to the beer, the burping and the banter already; they were just going to be doing it in another country.


I don’t usually drink at the airport so I decided that I'd just stick to something non -alcoholic although they weren't having that and I ended up with a glass of prosecco in my hand before long. These seasoned drinkers started with three pints before we got on the plane and carried on until we touched down in Germany.

At the hostel, the boys picked a 6 bed dorm which was lucky because there was six of them, but it was pretty small and they had to pick their bunk beds according to who was most likely to throw up after a night out. There were clothes and empty bottles everywhere plus they came in drunk at all different times and were more than happy to wee in the shower when the toilet was busy. Andrew and I paid three times as much (whats an extra 50 for two nights) to stay in a private room with en suite so luckily I didn't have to deal with that. 
Also, since there were six of them and only two of us, it meant I could take as much time as I wanted to get ready. Whilst I put on layers and layers, Andrew went out on the first night, in -5 degrees wearing just a t-shirt. Boys eh?

I don’t think I've ever eaten so much crap in my whole life as I did that weekend. When I go visit a new country, I like to try out the local cuisine and look for authentic places to eat or try something fun like taking a cooking class and learning to cook like a local but the boys couldn't care less about what they ate, as long as they weren't hungry afterwards.

We started this weekend with a fry up before we left (the greasy spoon didn't have any avo) and it just went downhill from there. The weekend consisted of eating an array of junk food at all sorts of strange times. Pizza hut at 5am, KFC for breakfast the next morning and ice cream for lunch at the airport. Saying that, we did have one authentic meal in Hamburg and thanks to the boys it was such a fun experience that I didn’t feel like I missed out on my fill of German-ness.


After dinner it was back to their room for predrinks before we hit the Reeperbahn. Over the years I have learnt that I can’t drink anywhere as much as most of them so I don't even try. I am now pretty good at getting drunk and then just stopping drinking, something that they obviously aren't so good at, hence the bunk bed situation. 

 They spend a lot more time standing at the bar than I ever have done. I'm not sure if that’s because it takes them longer to get served or because I love to dance when I'm in a club. Either way, it worked for me because it meant any time I did want another drink, there was already someone at the front of the bar to put my order in. I did have to swap my prosecco for something more accessible though; usually vodka. My favourite was the caramel shots from the 99¢ bar. There were a lot of shots at that bar. 

There was a refreshing lack of arguments which is something that I love about spending my time with the boys. Instead they spent a lot of time bantering each other and having a good time. Both nights were loads of fun, as we're the days, even though we didn't exactly do that much.

So there's just a little insight into my weekend away with the boys. Would I do it again? If they wanted me? Sure - why not!

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Five Things To Do In Ronda

Monday, 6 February 2017

Never heard of Ronda? Neither had I before the Spanish tourism board took me to visit on part of our #InCostadelSol trip. It's in the western part of Malaga and we were only there for the back end of one day but I instantly fell in love with it - Ronda is one of the most picturesque and romantic places I have visited. The mountainous surroundings mean that every direction you look in, there are beautiful sweeping views down below; and with 2,700 years of history, it's also one of the oldest towns in Spain. So why visit? It's history along with the cobbled streets and breathtaking views make it the perfect place for a romantic break! Here's what to do when you get there:

Wine Tasting at Joaquin Fernandez Bodega 
Malaga gets 300 days of sun per year so who not spend one of them outside at a vinyard? Joaquin Fernandez Bodega is an organic winery placed at an altitude of 700 metres meaning the whole vineyard is drenched in beautiful sunlight; with the mountains in the background, the views are breath-taking.

Moises is the owner’s son and he was our guide - he speaks clear English and didn’t waffle on so even for someone who doesn’t drink wine (yep, you heard), it was very interesting. We explored the vineyard and learned about the whole process from separating the grapes to sealing the bottles at the end - they use beeswax to keep it organic. 
After the tour we settled down on their terrace overlooking the vines for a few hours of wine tasting and delicious freshly cooked lunch.
See the Puente Nuevo Bridge
Puente Nuevo Bridge (aka the new bridge but not actually that new because it was built in the 18th century) is a very famous landmark and a sight worth seeing whilst you are in Ronda. It bridges the El Toja gorge joining the old town with the new and whilst spring is supposedly the best time to see it; sprinkled with flowers the sunset on a October evening was fine for me! The view from the other side isn't bad either!

Visit Plaza de Toros
Plaza de toros translates to Bullring and the one in Ronda is Spain’s oldest and largest one, making Ronda the birthplace of modern bullfighting. This humongous stadium seats over 5000 people, and whilst I am 100% not a fan of bullfighting, could you image the atmosphere of this place in its full glory roaring with people?
Go For a Sunset Walk
Ronda is such a romantic place and I think they best time to see it in all its glory is sunset. Find your perfect spot on one of the many balconies and watch the sun was set from over the mountains as the skies turn from blue to bright orange. After the big event, there are the cobbled streets of the old town to explore!

Eat a traditional Spanish meal at Pedro Romano  
Named after the matador that introduced modern bullfighting as we know it, Pedro Romano is just outside of the bullring and is dedicated to the man himself. The place was like a museum, full of relics and bullfighting memorabilia. We sat down at the end of a long day and indulged in a couple or Spanish classics all washed down with a glass of cava. After starting with some pâté, I got my first take of oxtail stew; it fell of the bone and was packed with flavour. Seriously delicious.
* I was a guest of the Spanish tourism board.

Five Reasons I Loved The Rosewood Hotel, London

Monday, 30 January 2017

From the outside, The Rosewood is a grand, old building and one that I had never been inside before, I think that made it all the more exciting. Andrew took me for my birthday and we only stayed for one night before we were off to another hotel in East London but this incredible place left a mark and I would now count it as one of my favourite hotels in London. Here's why:

The Bed
Obviously we spent the night in bed but we also spent a good proportion of the afternoon and the next morning in bed too. I’m not over exaggerating here, it was seriously the most comfortable night’s sleep we have ever had. The mattress was just the right mix of firm but squishy, the duvet was thick and dense but not suffocating and the pillows were just right. I love how a good night’s sleep makes you feel in the morning, we both woke up feeling super relaxed and excited to get up for breakfast! (which as it turns out, I wasn't such a big fan of)


The Gym
We go to a cheap pay as you go gym at home so a hotel gym is always a bit of a treat! This one was full of state of the art machines (complete with TVs, USB slots and internet access) and bright natural light from the big windows looking out over high Holborn. Big mirrors and wooden floors added to the chicness. The gym was split into two rooms; cardio and weights so I hopped on the treadmill whilst Andrew went off to the other room. My gym doesn’t offer any extras so I was very impressed to see a couple of antibacterial wipes on each piece of equipment as well as complimentary infused or bottled water, fruits, towels and headphones.

The Location
I walk past this hotel at least once a week and for me, it’s in a really great location. The hotel is less than five minutes’ walk from Holborn station and had everything we needed for my big birthday weekend within walking distance; we started at Hubbard & Bell for breakfast which on the same road. Andrew had also booked theater tickets in Covent Garden which was just a short walk away and if you’re not sick of Oxford Street like me (that’s what working there does to you) then it’s a great place to spend the day shopping before walking back to the hotel to put your feet up!

The Service
We have stayed at a lot of 5* hotels in London and sometimes I find that staff can act as if they are too cool to talk to you; they take your details, give you a key and that's that but the service here was very genuine. The lady who checked us in asked about our plans and then in the morning, she asked how Matilda was and we had a chat about the show. Room staff were very efficient; we asked for some cold water and instead of a glass each we got four chilled bottles brought up to the room within minutes or putting the phone down. Also they worked out it was my birthday and brought a surprise birthday cake up to the room.

The Décor (& the Dog)
I loved the classic meets modern design of the Rosewood and I feel like that is something that makes it totally unlike anywhere else we have stayed in London. You enter though a big courtyard taking you instantly from the hustle and bustle of the street into the tranquillity of the hotel. Honestly, it’s more like a countryside manor house than a hotel in central London. The whole place is very grand, luxurious and classic but without the old fashioned feel; it was actually very modern. Also, I loved our dark marble bathroom and the bold striped carpets in our room

FYI, the hotel also has its very own resident dog, Pearl the golden retriever! She’s very sweet and sleeps in reception. This image was taken from her instagram account!
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My First Hostel Experience At La Guitarra Gdansk

Monday, 23 January 2017

Today's post is a hostel review! Not something I thought I'd be posting about in the past but I've really changed my outlook recently. I want to travel, and I want to do it more than two lovely holidays each year. I want to see the world and I want to experience it all and if that means staying somewhere that isn't a 5* hotel every now and then that's fine with me!

Hopefully you read about how I ended up in Poland in the first place (here) so with Selena being the expert, she talked me though booking my first hostel stay. First off, check location and accessibility, also whether it included free breakfast - all normal hotel stuff but then there were things like checking if it had lockers or whether you had to pay extra for towels, bedding or if there was a curfew - which is not all so familiar.
After we had narrowed those things down, it was about seeing which had the highest review ratings and picking a room. We decided on La Guitarra Hostel since it ticked all the boxed and was an 8.1 on hostel world. It had free internet, free breakfast and it was a fifteen minute walk from the station - passing though the center on the way. We decided on a four bed dorm - smaller rooms are usually more expensive but since it was my first time and the more expensive price was still only £7.55 we thought it was a good shout.
Checking in
After a short walk in the snow we made it to a very warm reception area. First box ticked, I was kind of a bit worried about spending our day exploring Gdansk in -19 degrees and then coming back to a cold room as well but that was not the case, reception was toasty (as was the rest of the building - our room had a huge radiator). Reception staff weren't all too friendly - most of the reviews described them as emotionless robots which I thought was a bit harsh beforehand but I can totally see where they are coming from having experienced them first hand. Still, not a problem, the guy gave us a card (the same one key card was used for the front door to the building, the dorm room and the crazy hi-tech electronic lockers) and the wifi password and we were off to check out our dorm. Reception also had a vending machine in case of emergency (running out of snacks).
Our Room & Roommates
Our room was on the first floor and had a brilliant view of the river. It had a bit of a university accommodation vibe but it was nicer than I was expecting. The room itself was in an L shape which turned out to be really great because it meant the other beds were around the corner and had we wanted to ignore them, it would have been very easy. Contrary to that, the couple we were sharing a room with were actually very nice! They were a Canadian couple travelling around Europe together and they were the perfect roommates for us. Turns out we were all in bed by 11pm reading a book (read: tweeting) and we were all very respectful of each other plus neither of them snored! We agreed on a time to set an alarm the night before - we were all off on the same tour in the morning which made that easy too.
The Bed
There were two sets of bunks beds and I took a bottom bunk. I was very impressed to spot a clean, thick, white duvet and huge fluffy pillow folded up on each bed which was super comfortable and very warm. There was also a little lamp and another socket next to each bed meaning I could charge my phone while I slept without worrying about someone stealing it. It was quite cosy actually! In the morning we were asked to strip the beds before we left.
Bathrooms
Toilets were outside the room in the hallway and were fresh and clean throughout my stay. Selena pointed out that the toilets and sinks were in different rooms which was a good thing and meant more people could use them at once but honestly I didn't see anyone else apart from our room mates though my stay. There was also a heater in each one for you to warm your towel whilst you shower!

Common Room & Kitchen

This was downstairs in the basement and oh so chilled. We popped in at about 10pm and the TV was on, some people were sitting around on the sofa with drinks and others were cooking a pizza. We came back again for breakfast in the morning and it was all very tidy set up with a simple continental breakfast. Just tea, coffee, cereals, ham, cheese and bread but it was more than enough - we both made a sandwich to take out with us that afternoon as well! I didn't fancy washing up so I ate mine off of a tissue - I'm surprised at how well I adapted to hostel life!
So what did I think? Well, maybe I just lucked out with La Guitarra or maybe  everything I've ever seen surrounded hostels has been wrong. Probably a bit of both as Selena was also pretty impressed with it too! It was clean, I felt safe there and I felt like my stuff was safe there when I was out. So overall I would totally recommend!

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